Can T20 Cricket become enervating?

Sunil Narine smashing the ball in this season's IPL 2024. Source: AP/Getty Images

In life, no matter how many positives there are, the negatives are always inevitable. In the modern era of cricket, smashing sixes have increased exponentially. In the ongoing IPL taking place in India, the maximum number of sixes hit by the batters may comfortably be achieved. England’s all-rounder Sam Curran stated recently that cricket is turning into baseball. Surely any sport, including T20 cricket can become enervating under certain circumstances.

     The improved bats, shorter boundaries, flat pitches and the dew factor are major factors as to why batters nowadays are hitting sixes with tremendous ease. Training methods in cricket have changed over the last decade and a half. An example of this is that players are now focusing in the nets on hitting fours and sixes for a lengthy period of time. Gone are the days where a player may want to concentrate on defensive technique. Therefore, it is so important that the red-ball format of the game remains vital, as it develops a player’s technique and builds strong mentality over a 5-day period.

    Player burn-out is a serious issue, hence many cricketers have retired from the traditional Test cricket and even One-Day Internationals to prolong their T20 careers.

     There is no doubt that the current generation of young boys and girls are bred on hitting the ball out of the park. The “Old School” generation such as myself grew up traditionally on viewing maestro batting from the greats of this glorious game and high-class bowling spells. The large crowds drawn to the IPL are certainly attracted to the high scoring games by the 10 teams participating in this illustrious tournament. Having said all of the above, let us take a look at some main factors where T20 cricket may become enervating.

     Overkill of T20 cricket can be very worrisome. Playing too many T20 matches in a short span of time can lead to viewer fatigue. I am stating this from personal experience. It is difficult to remember a scorecard from a game played 3 days ago due to excessive T20 cricket being played. The IPL plays matches every day for several weeks. Back in the day, a cricket match was remembered because of the non-playing days spread out in between games.

     The nature of T20 cricket, often having a high scoring rate and thus becoming too predictable. If one team dominates another consistently, this may lead to boredom among viewers globally. The flat pitches seen in the IPL this year (2024), have produced scores consistently of 230 and above. Although it is good from a batter’s point of view, one must feel sorry for the bowlers. I was always a fan of producing pitches where the bowlers have a chance in the game. Big-six hitting is good to see but from a viewer’s point of view, a low scoring match makes the game 10 times more interesting. It should not be a one-sided affair with flat pitches. Bowlers are an integral part of the game.

     Commercialization has played a huge role in T20 cricket over the last few years. It is fair for players to have water breaks, especially in humid conditions. However, excessive commercial breaks, sponsor promotions, and advertisements during T20 matches can disrupt the flow of the game and become tiresome for viewers. The IPL usually has two strategic timeouts per innings. The players do enjoy the water break which is absolutely fair, but the amount of advertisements in this 2 and a half minute interval does become enervating. Having said that, we are not the ones making the big bucks out in the middle. That is food for thought.

     The quality of cricket also plays its part. There will be times when the quality of cricket in T20 matches might not be up to the mark due to factors like player fatigue, or mismatched teams, which could make the matches less enjoyable for viewers. There are times when a player may play a T20 final in one country and literally leave after the game to fly out to another country to participate in another T20 tournament. This cannot be healthy for the player both physically and mentally. Player burn-out is a serious issue, hence many cricketers have retired from the traditional Test cricket and even One-Day Internationals to prolong their T20 careers. The joy of basking in the glory days after a T20 final is non-existent in most cases.

     Despite these potential downsides, T20 cricket remains immensely popular due to its fast-paced and entertaining nature. However, it is essential for organizers to strike a balance to ensure that the excitement of the format is maintained without overwhelming viewers. At the end of the day, the players are paid highly for executing their skills. Let us hope T20 cricket does not completely kill Test match cricket.

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